ABOUT US

Our Vision

At Rutherford Equipment Rental, success is something to share. Our passion is helping wineries reach their full potential.

We understand the most pressing challenges wineries face, because we’ve been in your boots. We own Leto Cellars, a commercial winery located in south Napa. We use old-school methods to craft wine with a modern appeal.

For us, winemaking is more of an art than a science. When producing wine, it is important to take the character of the wine into consideration. 

Whether your winery is small or large, getting started or has been around for many years, our team delivers a personalized touch.

For everyone at Rutherford Equipment, serving customers is a great journey.

Brad and Lisa Warner

Jesus Garcia

Warehouse Assistant

Brianna Willis

Operations Coordinator

Jaime Jimenez

Rental Operations Manager

Brad Warner

FOUNDER/OWNER

An innovator in wine production, Brad leveraged his experiences to develop cellar protocol that is used in nearly every modern winery today. When you become a client of Rutherford Equipment, you gain access to the problem-solving wisdom he’s developed over 50+ years. He is also available as a consultant at any point in the winemaking lifecycle including equipment valuation, winery design, winemaking and winery equipment selection.

Contact Brad at (707) 266-8136 or brad@rutherfordrental.com 

Lisa Warner

DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS/OWNER

For more than three decades, Lisa has honed her expertise in winery production strategy, supply chain and business operations. Having worked at every level in the wine business, she is known for maximizing efficiencies and solving problems to drive results. Lisa understands the needs and priorities of every department and leverages her experience on her customer’s behalf to achieve big goals. 

Contact Lisa at (707) 253-7368 or lisa@rutherfordrental.com

Rutherford Equipment Rental’s
History and Ethos as told by Brad and Lisa Warner

How did Rutherford Equipment Rental begin? What were the early days like?

In the ’70s, wineries were starting to be built in Napa Valley, and they came over to Mondavi Winery and asked for help on cellar procedures and sometimes asked to borrow equipment.

I figured it would be good to help out wineries with a few pieces of equipment. So in 1991, I bought a pressure washer on a trailer and a couple of tanks and stored them in my side yard in Rutherford. The name Rutherford Equipment comes from the town of Rutherford because I lived there. I started putting the word out by handing out flyers to wineries. I hired one fellow that I knew from another business to hand them out.

A lot of times I’d get calls from new wineries. In January or February at the beginning of the year, they would ask for tanks for harvest. So I’d go out and buy more tanks to have them. And that’s how I started building the business. It was a reaction to the winery’s needs.

What motivated you to expand beyond tanks and pressure washers into renting filtration equipment?

Well, filtration is something that I’ve always been intrigued with. Filtration is more of an art than a science. Many wineries thought it was a science, but being a cellar guy, I found the science behind it was often wrong.­­

With filtration, it is more about, where do you want to end up with the wine? A lot of people did not want it sterile filtered because they felt filtration stripped the wine of too much character. It is important that they get these other heavier particles out though, especially Brettanomyces.

What was your first experience renting large winery equipment?

The first rental thing I ever did was for Mondavi back in the early 80’s We had one press called the continuous press where you fed the must into it and it would press it and go to a sump underneath. So you had the light press, the medium press, the heavy press, and this continuous press would do it all at once. You had to be careful about controlling the pressure on it so you didn’t have really astringent, heavily pressed wines.

Domaine Chandon contacted Mondavi. They contacted me and explained how they wanted to experiment with a continuous press before they decide to buy one. They ended up renting and eventually buying, a continuous press, which had just been put out of service, for the harvest. That was the first rental I did before Rutherford Equipment Rental formally started.

How did the change in how wineries viewed bottling lines help grow the business?

When I first started in the wine industry, people had their own bottling lines on site. In the ’90s, wineries started shutting down their bottling lines. So instead of spending thousands of dollars on a piece of equipment that they’re only going to use once or twice a year, they could rent it for less. They don’t have to maintain it, we bring it in, they do the job and it’s out of the cellar, it’s a no-brainer for them.

With bigger wineries, the emergence of tasting rooms, and direct-to-consumer, people want to do small lots or let the winemaker create a specialty for the wine club. There are a lot of big corporate customers that don’t have an available portable small tank operation.

On the importance of having processes

When Brad and I were dating back in 2008, I was the director of national accounts for Hahn Family Wines. Brad was deciding if he wanted to sell or grow his business when he asked me if I was interested in operating it. I said yes.

Brad was still operating it out of the back door and doing it on the side when he had little extra time. He kept track of everything in a spiral notebook. Everything was a handshake and we knew everybody we were doing business with.

I started working out of my home office and didn’t get too involved with the equipment. I, then, transitioned to a desk in the middle of a warehouse. Brad had different warehouses that I’d run around between them.

We had no inventory system so I used to belly crawl under rows of tanks, pop up in between, trying to count inventory and figure out what was where. Brad believed if you just do the spiral notebook, you can track everything. However, we were growing and needed processes.

On Custom Crush Facilities and Micro Production

Custom crush continues to grow. It’s a point of entry for anybody that wants to start into the wine business. But, custom crush facilities only have so much capacity, which results in the need to bring your own tank or rent one from us.

We serve such a range of evolving customers. One longtime customer had been renting harvest tanks since I’ve been here when they decided to get their own tanks. We are happy for them. Now they’re growing and they need the rental tanks again.

We are fitting that unmet need by enabling large-scale wineries to engage in micro-production without them having to invest in it.

You've been called a cult supplier. How did this name come about?

When I came on board in 2008, we were known as the cult supplier because there was no way to get a hold of us. You had to know how to find Rutherford Equipment because we had no website presence or an email address.

We had phones.

What motivates you to keep this business going?

To say I enjoy the wine business is an understatement. I enjoy all the parts of winemaking and I do enjoy helping our customers with their problems. Tanks are pretty basic and straightforward but filtration, fermentation problems, and wine-making type stuff are very interesting and very satisfying to me. My goal is to teach our clients what to do and then let them do it themselves. I’ll be there if they need guidance or questions, but I don’t want to do it for them. I want them to be passionate about what they’re doing.

It is about feeling useful and making contributions to our industry. We know wine production, we know beverage production and it is immensely satisfying to provide solutions for other people. Whatever the question may be, we are offering solutions to people’s production challenges.

How do you choose which equipment you offer?

The equipment we rent is equipment we would use on our own wine.

Customer Experience - The Importance of Confidentiality

We take customer confidentiality very seriously. If you are working for a cult brand and you are a celebrity winemaker, you can’t admit that you don’t know about filtration since you’re supposed to know all the things.

So what happens is they’re working with us on a rental, but Brad is truly providing consulting.

Last week, I got a call from a winery that I know. The guy who was trying to get charcoal out of his wine. I knew the previous winemaker and remembered that he was trying to do the same thing. I asked him to bring me samples to look at so I could make a proper rental recommendation. After examining the samples, I suggested what to do.

That’s how we get repeat customers. Whether it’s a new winemaker or an established winemaker they may not want to go out and call a lab up. They want to keep it on the down-low and they trust us to be discreet.

Everything we do is built on this incredible trust. We hold a lot of secrets and it’s just this unspoken thing. We don’t talk about our customers with other vendors. We may say we had a situation, but we won’t name them.

Winemakers come to us to solve their problems by virtue of the equipment and the knowledge we offer.

On being sympathetic to the struggles of winemaking

When people are at their wits end with bottling or some emergency pops up or an owner that says, “I’m having all these distributors come in and I need 10 magnums right now.” They can call us.

People call us under stressful circumstances. We project calm.

Once, a guy called and it was his first vintage and it was about his label. He was getting tremendous pressure from a distributor to release it. His labels hadn’t been produced, yet he was trying to rent a labeler. And it was the wrong specs. I guided him through what to do and told him not to do something if you’re not ready. This was his inaugural release so it’s important. He appreciated us being understanding of his situation.

People remember how we help during stressful times like bottling. We are more than a supplier. We put out heads together and figure out a solution. Those are the best days.

On the importance of communication and availability

Speed of response is important. We have technology and systems in place so that we can get back to people quickly. There is no lag time because our customers don’t have time to wait. Decisions need to be made. This is production. You need to know hopefully the same day or within at least, an eight-hour timeframe that you can get what you need or you need to move on and go somewhere else. That’s super important.

Our team loves to solve quick response challenges. It’s a badge of honor to be able to pull that off. It’s a high five moment around here.

What Our Customers Say